It is fast; it is powerful; it is a beauty to behold….. it is a FERRARI! If you ask anyone about what a luxurious sport car looks like, there is a big chance that the answer would be something as follows: a burning red car with a loud roaring engine resembling the sound of wildcats!
This is the description of what most people imagine luxury sports cars to look like; it is also the description of what the famous Ferrari looks like—That’s how big the Ferrari brand is!
If we take a step back to have a look at the history of the prestigious brand Ferrari, we will find that the story of Ferrari tells of the commitment and perseverance of its founder, the racing driver Enzo Ferrari.
The history of Ferrari has its roots almost a century ago. It is a story of successes and cars that has become a symbol to the world, a story that began at the gates, not of Maranello, the famous home of the brand, but of Modena, where the man behind the brand, Enzo Ferrari, was born.
Although Ferrari’s official birth was in 1947, you may not know that its origins date back some twenty years earlier when its future founder, Enzo Ferrari, was an official Alfa Romeo driver in various competitions in 1924.
The history of Ferrari is everything you would expect and more. It is a history beaming with brilliance, innovation, and ground-breaking cars that managed to leave their mark on history! How did the story of the household name Ferrari begin? Coming up next!
The Man Who Started It All: Enzo Ferrari!
The official history of Ferrari starts in 1947, but the beginnings go back further. Like the entire history of the brand, they are inextricably linked with the name Enzo Ferrari.
In 1929, Enzo Ferrari founded his own racing team, which was named Scuderia Ferrari. Since the Ferrari company did not exist at that time, the Scuderia Ferrari racing team relied on vehicles from the manufacturer Alfa Romeo.
The team was mainly linked to Alfa Romeo as a technical racing subsidiary and, from 1933, was responsible for both the design of the racing cars. In 1937 the stable was dissolved, and Alfa Romeo created a new racing department headed by Ferrari.
Loaded with experience under Alfa Romeo, Ferrari founded Auto Avio Costruzioni in 1939 with headquarters in Modena, in the old Ferrari stable. Auto Avio Costruzioni built its first model in 1940, the famous 815, in just two examples. Any development of the company was then immediately compromised by the outbreak of war, so it had to devote itself to building parts for aeronautics. In 1943 the headquarters were relocated to Maranello, the site of today’s Ferrari, but it was ruined by the Allies’ bombs in 1944 and rebuilt later.
The 1940s: The Birth of Ferrari
Finally, with the horrors of war over and the contractual ties with Alfa Romeo expired, the historic Ferrari brand was founded on 12 March 1947, symbolised by the famous Prancing Horse logo.
The brand’s history as a full-fledged car manufacturer officially began with the launch of the Ferrari 125 S (125 Sport), the first racing car to bear the Prancing Horse badge. It was equipped with a 1,500 cc V12 engine with 118 hp, and it offered a thrilling performance. The 125 sport, with its 12-cylinder engine, won the Rome Grand Prix, its first race in May 1947. Since then, the brand has won more than 5,000 car races, including more than 220 victories in the top-class Formula 1.
At the Paris Motor Show in 1949, the first road-going model was unveiled, the 166 Inter, which had a 2,000 cc V12 engine with 110 hp.
There were several racing successes in the late 1940s for Ferrari, including two Mille Miglia races and two Targa Florio races with driver Clemente Biondetti and the 1949 Le Mans 24 Hours race with American Luigi Chinetti and Briton Peter Mitchell-Thomson. The racing winning enabled the Maranello company to make an immediate name for itself worldwide.
The 1950s: More Victories
Ferrari initially designed its vehicles as racing cars, but they were also sold to private consumers to generate additional income. It was not until the early 1950s that Enzo Ferrari considered making it a separate division.
The Ferrari 250 GT and 250 GT Berlinetta marked the beginning of this. Models of this type are hard to come by today and are usually found in museums or collectors’ collections. They are correspondingly valuable. At an auction in 2015, a 250 GT Berlinetta changed hands for 13.2 million!
Back to the 1950s era, Ferrari won many victories: six Mille Miglia, five World Sportscar Championships, four F1 Drivers’ World Championships with driver Alberto Ascari in 1952 and 1953, with Argentinean driver Juan Manuel Fangio in 1956 and Briton Mike Hawthorn in 1958, three 12 Hours of Sebring.
There were also two 24 Hours of Le Mans races in 1954 with Argentinean José Froilan González and Frenchman Maurice Trintignant, in 1958 with Belgian Olivier Gendebien and American Phil Hill, two editions of the Carrera Panamericana in 1951 with Chinetti and Piero Taruffi, and in 1954 with Umberto Maglioli and a Targa Florio.
In those years, the Maranello company focused more on racing than mass production. However, the birth of the innovative car body designed by the well-known coach building and design company Carrozzeria Scaglietti in 1951 allowed the brand to have a factory dedicated 100 per cent to the production of bodies and chassis.
The 1960s: Great Expansion!
Now, we come to the 1960s in which Ferrari embarked on its greatest expansion plan; it became a joint-stock company in 1960, producing the legendary 250 GTO in 1962 with a 3,000 cc V12 engine producing 300 hp, although it continued to focus mainly on racing.
Between 1960 and 1965, in fact, it won every race there was to win; all editions of the World Sportscar Championship, the 12 Hours of Sebring as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in addition to winning four F1 World Championships and two ‘drivers’ championships in 1961 and 1964 with Hill and Briton John Surtees, as well as three Targa Florios and two Daytona.
In the decade’s second half, the Maranello company began to need resources to continue to excel in racing and design production models. At that point, Ford asked to take over half of the shares, but Enzo Ferrari rejected the Americans’ approach to preserve the Italian character of the brand and signed a similar agreement with Fiat in 1969.
The only two major victories of that period came in 1967, with the triumph in the World Sportscar Championship and the conquest of the 24 Hours of Daytona with New Zealander Chris Amon and Lorenzo Bandini. As for the cars destined for the public, the ‘small’ Dino 206 GT of 1967 with a 180 hp 2,000 cc V6 engine and the 365 GTB4, known as the Daytona of the following year, are worth mentioning.
The1970s: Staying at the Top!
The 1970s opened for Ferrari with victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1970 with a crew made up of the legendary drivers Mario Andretti, Ignazio Giunti and Nino Vaccarella. Two years later came the World Sportscar Championship, the Targa Florio, with drivers Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari, and there were also successes at the 24 Hours of Daytona and Sebring with Andretti and Belgian Jacky Ickx.
In the same year, the Fiorano test track was inaugurated; it is a circuit specially built to test racing cars, given the many curves that reproduce those of the world’s most famous circuits.
A further boost to the brand’s sporting activities came in 1973 with the arrival of young Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, who at the age of 26 was appointed head of the Scuderia racing division and in 1977 became head of external relations, a role he held until 1981.
In the decade’s second half, the Scuderia di Maranello returned to winning in F1 after a long fast; seven World Championships, three Drivers’ titles, two with Austrian Niki Lauda in 1975, and one with South African Jody Scheckter in 1979, as well as four Constructors’ titles.
The 1980s: The Death of Enzo Ferrari
The 1980s was the most difficult decade for Ferrari. During this period, however, three supercars that were destined to mark the history of the brand made their debut: the 288 GTO and Testarossa in 1984. There is also “the ultimate road-going”— as hailed by many— the F40 in 1987, the last car designed by Enzo Ferrari.
Sporting successes thinned during this time; the only satisfaction in F1 came from the two Constructors’ World Championships in 1982 and 1983.
The 1980s marked a new delicate moment in the history of the car manufacturer. Enzo Ferrari left at the age of 90 in 1988, in the midst of his Scuderia’s results crisis. Shortly before his death, he allowed Fiat to increase its stake in the company from 50 to 90 per cent.
Ferrari said goodbye to everyone when he was one of the best-known Italians in the world, and his factory was now part of the history books. Life spared him no pain; he lost his father and brother at a young age, but his work brought him many joys, between world championships and many memorable cars.
Always animated by passion, he regarded the car as a conquest of man’s freedom. All his life, he did what he liked to do. He hoped to work until the last of his days, and so he did. He left behind a dream that continues to be lived with open eyes by millions of people.
The 1990s: The Rebirth!
Enzo Ferrari’s death certainly did not help the Italian manufacturer’s situation. But as is often the case, rebirth was just around the corner and in the early 1990s, with the inauguration of the Galleria Ferrari, the museum that brings together the history of the brand, a brand orphaned by its founder.
The rebirth began the following year and coincided with the return of Luca Cordero di Montezemolo as president this time. Then, in the decade’s second half, the engagement of German driver Michael Schumacher brought the brand back to the top ranks of F1 with the 1999 Constructors’ World Championship, while there was no shortage of successes, with three 12 Hours of Sebring and a win at the 24 Hours of Daytona between 1995 and 1998.
The production models also got a new push. From 1995 onwards came the 550 Maranello in 1996 and, above all, the 360 Modena in 1999, two models that accompanied Ferrari into the third millennium.
The New Millennium and Today
In spite of the bumps on the road, Ferrari has never stopped and has continued undaunted on its way, achieving spectacular goals and winning 13 world championships between 2000 and 2008. Even the production models were making an impact; the Ferrari Enzo (2002) is a great blend of technology and emotion, and the F430 (2004) turned out to be, unlike its predecessors, a car that can also be used on a daily basis without problems.
In 2002, the first Ferrari Store was inaugurated, and today there are several outlets around the world, such as in Rome, New York and Abu Dhabi. Ferrari has since consolidated its presence by expanding into several markets, including the Middle East, China, the United States and Europe. The company’s range also keeps on evolving, offering new models with greater comfort and performance.
A new and, in some ways, revolutionary industrial phase began with the handover from the management of Luca Cordero di Montezemolo to that of Sergio Marchionne, who not only freed the ownership and consequently the fate of Ferrari from the Fiat Group, which in turn was incorporated into the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) entity but also opened Ferrari up to the extraordinary potential of the stock market.
On 21 October 2015, the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2016, the brand made its appearance on the Italian Stock Exchange, effectively becoming an independent company.
The Prancing Horse of Ferrari
Like everything about Ferrari, the brand’s logo, “prancing horse”, has a rich history behind it. The logo of Ferrari is a black prancing horse with a background in the colour of yellow; the logo also usually includes the letters SF, which stands for Scuderia Ferrari. The origin of the horse symbol comes from the late Count Francesco Baracca; he was a legendary ‘Ace’ of the Italian Air Force during the First World War. The count had the image of the prancing horse drawn on the sides of his aircraft.
Baracca died when he was young on 19 June 1918; he was killed after 34 victorious duels and many medals for courage. There are many theories as to why Baracca wanted the prancing horse design on his aircraft, one of them is that it is because his troop consisted of a cavalry regiment, and he himself was considered the best cavalryman in the squadron.
On 17 June 1923, Enzo Ferrari, a young and unscrupulous driver, won a race on the Savio circuit in Ravenna, and there he met Count Enrico Baracca and Countess Paolina, Baracca’s parents. The Countess suggested that Ferrari use the “prancing horse” logo on his cars because it would bring him luck. However, it took eleven years for Alfa Romeo, for whom Enzo was racing at the time, to allow him to have the symbol on the Scuderia’s cars. It was at the Spa 24 Hours race in 1932, and, of course, Ferrari won!
So he decided to adopt the symbol of the black horse as it was on Baracca’s planes but also added a yellow background because it was the symbol colour of his hometown, Modena.
“If you can dream it, you can do it”—Enzo Ferrari and he surely did it! Thanks to Enzo Ferrari’s vision, the brand has always been the highest expression of what the phrase ‘made in Italy‘ means in the world. In fact, no other Italian brand is able to express the style, quality and refinement that characterise Italian luxury products like Ferrari. Ferrari has always been and will always be a sports car enthusiast’s dream on four wheels.